By November 2020, it had been 9 months since we saw my sister and her family. It was definitely the longest stretch that we had been apart since Brianne and Bridgette were born. The whole COVID situation was still fluctuating tremendously. Some days, the news sounded hopeful, while most other days everyone seemed to be living in despair. I decided that we weren’t going to wait around for the world to be “normal” again and began planning for our family reunion in Hong Kong. At the time, the Hong Kong government was requiring a mandatory 14 day quarantine for all arriving passengers, and only permanent residences and their immediate family members would be allowed entry at all. Fortunately for us, both Alan and I hold Hong Kong IDs as permanent residences, so we would be allowed entry, and Bridgette being our daughter, would also be allowed entry even without a HKID card.
The hardest part was figuring out how to properly meet the testing requirements by Hong Kong government. They were one of the strictest countries to enter and we had heard so many stories of passengers being turned away prior to boarding because their PCR tests did not fully meet the precise requirements. After asking a few friends who recently went through the process, we booked our COVID test with a trustworthy lab in San Francisco, and then proceeded to book a 14 day quarantine stay at the Crowne Plaza in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. Our airfare turned out to be the lowest expense for this international trip. 🤪
Hong Kong has always been a second home to me. We travel there several times a year, and each time, it really does feel like we are going “home.” This time, however, I felt so nervous leading up to our flight. What if our COVID tests did not properly fulfill all the requirements? What if our flight got cancelled? What was it going to be like being stuck inside a hotel room for 14 whole days? The more I thought about each element and the risks involved, the more I allowed the fear to consume me. I decided to surrender it all to God and prayed deeply each day for His guidance and protection. As always, God was faithful and instilled a transcending peace in me by our departure date.
We arrived to an eerily empty SFO with everything we thought we needed, except I had forgotten to bring a copy of Bridgette’s birth certificate. We had never needed it before, but in order to prove that she was our daughter, qualifying her to enter Hong Kong as a non-resident, we needed the birth certificate upon check in. This had been on the back of my mind as I prepared for the trip, but somehow, I neglected to make a copy with all our other documents. I immediately panicked as Alan assessed if we had enough time to Uber home to get the birth certificate.
At that moment, while Alan was figuring out different options, I walked away, took a deep breath, and began praying. I didn’t pray for a miracle, but for God to give us wisdom in the decision ahead of us. I prayed for peace, and for a clear mind. Faithful as always, God did give us a miracle. I suddenly recalled that I had given Bridgette a copy of her birth certificate when she traveled to London by herself earlier in the year. I called her over and asked if she still had it in her travel backpack. She looked, and pulled out the piece of paper that ultimately gave us the green light to proceed with our check in. Praise the Lord!!!!!!!
Our flight on Cathay Pacific airline was probably not even a third full. We each a row to ourselves, with barely any other passengers in our cabin. Food and beverage service was faster than we had ever experienced, and the whole journey was just incredibly smooth and easy. When we landed in Hong Kong, we were directed by airline and airport staff every step of the way, to ensure nobody would wander off on their own. Because we arrived in the wee hours of the morning and was the only flight in, we barely had to wait longer than 5 minutes at each of the checkpoints where government officials checked our COVID tests and other paperwork we were required to show. We also had to get wristbands and download a specific app for tracking purposes, to ensure we would stay inside our hotel room for the entire quarantine duration of 14 days.
After getting through all the checkpoints, we were directed to do a self-administered COVID test, That was pretty easy, but the harder part was having to wait nearly 7 hours for the results! We were all seated in a section of the airport, classroom style, quietly awaiting for our test results. The whole set up reminded me of an SAT test site! Sandwiches, snacks, and water were provided, but more importantly, we also had access to WiFi during the long wait!
I read, I watched a few episodes of Netflix, I got up to stretch next to my table, I ate, and I waited, and waited, and waited some more. After what felt like forever, but was actually 7 hours later, someone came and announced that everyone on our flight tested negative and we were free to proceed to immigration. Cheer erupted to break the silence, and we all began eagerly packing our belongings.
We went through customs, got our luggages, and found one of our favorite restaurants at the airport for a quick meal before taking a taxi to our quarantine hotel. While in the taxi, we joked that we should open the windows for our last few breaths of fresh air before being stuck in our hotel room for the next 2 weeks.
We arrived to the Crowne Plaza hotel in Causeway Bay, where the check in process was easy and quick. They explained that once we entered our hotel room, we would not be allowed to leave it until the full duration of the quarantine was completed. All food deliveries would be delivered to the front desk, and they would bring it up and leave it at the small table outside our room. There would be no housekeeping services during our 2 weeks in the room, but we could ask the staff to bring us clean sheets and any other amenities we may need for self service inside the room.
The hotel blocked off several floors strictly for quarantine guests, and each room had a small table set up outside for delivery pickups/drop offs. Our room key allowed us to enter our room but after that, it was deactivated to ensure we wouldn’t leave our room.
Our hotel room was quite spacious, over 400 sq ft. We weren’t able to book one with 2 double beds, so the 3 of us had to be in 1 King size bed. Not ideal since Bridgette is basically as tall as I am now, but oh well.
We got settled in very quickly. There was no need to unpack much since we planned to be in our pajamas pretty much all day everyday, lol. First order of business was familiarizing ourselves with the 2 most popular food delivery apps in Hong Kong– Food Panda and Deliveroo. We were beyond excited by the amount of options that were available to us, from every type of cuisine imaginable! We let Bridgette choose our first meal that evening, and she chose a Japanese omurice and a Japanese katsu curry rice. Both were super delicious!
As expected, we crashed shortly after dinner due to jetlag, and woke up around 4am. What we began to appreciate about the quarantine, was that there was no urgency to get over jetlag, as we had no place to go, and no plans with others. We felt completely liberated to sleep and wake whenever we needed to, letting our bodies dictate our schedule. Also, we had the luxury of ordering any kind of food at our fingertips, even in the middle of the night!
We spent the first few days getting acclimated to the new time zone. We slept on and off throughout the day, Alan worked remotely, Bridgette continued her online classes, and we spent a lot of quality time as a family playing games and just goofing around.
Our favorite parts of the day were meal times ofcourse, scrolling through the endless choices on our apps and deciding what to order. I don’t remember ever eating SO much delicious food in all the times we’ve visited Hong Kong!
Ofcourse, in order to consume all that good food, we needed to find a way to work out too. Fortunately, there was enough space in our hotel room to do some basic exercises. Bridgette and I would do online workout classes via Les Mills, and Alan would do a lot of strength training exercises on his own throughout the day.]
Our friends and family were also super sweet to send us numerous deliveries during our stay, from fruits to desserts to wine, snack, and more!
By the second week, we were really getting use to our rhythm of having no rhythm each and every day. Besides the work and classes that preoccupied specific windows of time for Alan and Bridgette, we were pretty much at leisure to just chill inside our room. We Facetimed with our family, we watched tv, we napped, we street watched, we read, and we even cleaned our own room! We asked the hotel staff to drop off a vacuum and clean sheets for us outside our room, and we became our own housekeeping. 😂
By the time our quarantine came to an end, our departure actually felt bittersweet for me! I had actually started to enjoy our time in our safe little bubble, and the thought of having to get dressed in street clothes and leaving the safety of our room almost felt a little scary. But, I was also extremely eager to get to see and hug our family again, especially my niece and nephew!
On the day of our departure, we awaited for the hotel staff to call us to give us the green light to leave our room. My sister came to pick us up, and I can hardly describe the joy that filled us when we finally got to hug one another!